First let me just start by saying I know how this is going to sound. I know how it’s going to sound, because I have had two types of people come into my house and see what I’m about to tell you, and they either think I am the weirdest, hippie-dippie mom, or they think it is really awesome and run home and do it themselves. If you read this and fall into the first camp, no worries, just move on with life. If you read this and fall into the second camp, I’m telling you it’s the best thing we’ve ever implemented in our household. This is also based on both science and Scripture, and I’ve linked the top 2 resources at the end of the blog so you can see for yourself I’m not making this stuff up.
My number one love language is words of affirmation. I both need to give words of affirmation, which is why one of my spiritual gifts is encouragement, and need to receive words of affirmation (sometimes to a fault). Words, in my opinion, are the most powerful tool and weapon we have. If you believe in Scripture, it says that the word is living, breathing, and active, sharper than a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). It says that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). Words are so powerful that the entire universe, all of creation, was created simply with words. God said, “Let there be light,” and it was so. He did that for 6 whole days, just speaking life into existence (Genesis 1). Jesus healed many people, even brought a man back to life with the power of his words (John 11:1-44). The Bible has quite a bit to say about the tongue, one of which is that it should be used to build one another up (Eph. 4:29). It also reminds us that because we live in this fallen world, we must renew our minds (Rom. 12: 2), and I believe that a practical way to do that is what I’m going to share with you.
Here’s the thing with words, though – they can also hurt. From the same mouth, you can speak life and death. Blessings and curses. That whole “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a total lie. Words hurt. I guarantee any one of us can remember people who spoke life over us and were so influential in our lives in a good way, but also remember people who spoke the opposite and words were so damaging we’ve believed those lies and carried that hurt for years.
A couple of years ago, we were having a major problem with hurtful words being spoken in moments of anger. Yes, I know, my son was a toddler, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. And too often than I would like admit, I would get done with it and fire the venom right back. Our home wasn’t peaceful, and for the girl who needs words and carries the weight of them deeply, I didn’t like the heaviness that I felt in our home. When our son was growing and didn’t have many words, he (like many toddlers) learned real quick to use his hands to communicate anger and frustration and fear. I would simply say, “No hurts,” and gently take his hand in mine and show him the right way to give a gentle touch, then give him the words he was trying to say, like, “I’m mad.” In the same way, I knew I needed to teach him the power of words and remind myself that if I spoke life, he would too. I started saying things outside of those moments like, “You have 2 choices with your words. You can either help or hurt.” He was 3 at this point and talking and sharing his opinions has never been an issue. Or I’d simply say, “Words have power. What you say is believed.”
Right? Because when something is spoken over and over and over to us, we start to believe it, whether it’s our internal dialogue or someone else’s words about us. It’s what makes leaving abusive relationships so difficult. Abusers are masters with their words. They know how to strip away at ever bit of dignity with words, to deceive, to make things sound pretty but are really daggers wrapped in pretty bows.
Not only were we struggling with words, but I saw, way too early, my son struggling with his internal dialogue, and what people were saying about him when they thought he couldn’t hear. Adults, parents, teachers: I plead with you. Please be careful how you speak about and to the children in your care. It pained me so much, and I wasn’t about to let my 3-year-old start this struggle so early. So in order to renew his mind and teach him to take every thought captive, we started doing daily affirmations, morning and night.
If you come into my home, you will see sticky notes all over my house. Words of encouragement and affirmations to each other, things I need to be reminded of or to fight against, so I did the same thing for him. I wrote affirmations on sticky notes, and put them around the border of his mirror. Things that I knew were true about him, things that he needed to grow in but believe he could do, things that had not yet come to pass but one day will, and fundamental truths about God and how God sees him.
The way I introduced this was one morning after he brushed his teeth and they were up, he was excited to see them, ones specifically for him. So at first, I would just have him stand in front of the mirror, and I would speak those things over him morning and night. Then, he started to repeat them after me. Then, he had them memorized, and did not want my help. He’s nearly 5 now, and we are still doing this morning and night, every day. We keep adding, and he’s even come up with affirmations himself when there is something going on that he is struggling with and needs encouragement.
This is optional, but there are many studies out there that show the power that smell has with the brain. Smells help to retain information (why you see so many studies about eating or smelling peppermint while you study for exams or a presentation). Smells are linked to memories, so because we are an oily household and Kai already loves oils, we don’t think these do anything “magical,” but do believe that smelling the oil before and after affirmations serves as an “anchor” to the brain. When you smell an oil, it goes straight to the limbic region (the emotional center) of the brain. So anytime Kai smells something that has those same kinds of fragrances, it will remind him of these truths. This also empowers him when he is given choices: “Which oil do you want to use? Valor or Believe?” He gets to pick what he likes, another way to just bring all of this together. So, he smells the oil from the bottle, I apply it to the back of his neck near the brainstem, then he recites his affirmations, and smells the oil one more time.
To give you an idea, here are a few of his affirmations:
I am healthy, fit and strong.
I have a voice.
I trust God.
I am loved.
I am safe.
I am a great big brother (not come to pass, but believe it will. And he already knows and believes he will be a great big brother).
I trust mommy and daddy.
I listen well.
I am focused.
I am a leader.
I make wise choices.
I run my own race.
My identity is found in Jesus.
God has a plan for my life.
God has given me specific gifts.
I use my gifts to glorify God.
Get the picture? The biggest thing about affirmations, is making “I am” statements, vs. things like “I will be” or “I want to be.” When you make an “I am” statement, your brain is creating new pathways to believe that. When you make an “I will be” statement, your brain still reminds you of the negative: but you aren’t there yet.
Here’s the deal, the affirmations I have for both Kai and myself, neither one of us have “arrived.” Kai is 4, he does not “run his own race” or “listen well” 100% of the time. Nor am I a “present and connected parent” 100% of the time, or my biggest struggle “my tone matches the need” definitely doesn’t happen 100% of the time. Jonathan and I are also not out of debt yet, but we say “we are debt-free,” because our brain then reminds us, “Yes, take the steps necessary to make that happen,” and not live in the discouragement but work towards freedom. It’s something we both need to believe and strive to be daily, so that we can actively fight against those struggles.
They are also used as great reminders throughout the day. If I see Kai being influenced by friends in a way that isn’t the best, I can simply call him over and say, “Hey bud, are you running your own race?” I am reminding him that that is who he is, to live in that truth. If he says something like, “So and so said I’m not a good listener,” I will fight back with the truth: “That is not true. You listen well, that is who you are.” Then we talk about the situation and, of course, talk about what could have been done differently, but always end the conversation with the belief that he does listen well, because if he does not believe that, he will walk in that negative belief and act according to that negativity.
Kai has incredible athletic ability, and I see already that it is going to be a temptation and easy to find his identity in what he can do, hence the affirmations, “My identity is found in Jesus,” and, “I use my gifts to glorify God.” I never, ever want to squash those gifts. I want him to run with them, but run with them in the right direction and know that he has a bigger purpose than what his body can do.
No matter what happens, starting and ending our day with this, speaking life and truth, has changed our home, and I can see how it is changing me as a mom and wife, Jonathan as a husband and father, and Kai as he learns and grows. We want our home to be filled with words that help, that heal, that speak life and truth. Are we perfect? No, but we can always stand on the Truth.
This has been so powerful in our home, I want to encourage you to do the same. For the next 30 days, I want you to pull out your sticky notes and do this with your kids. Ask them the things that they do well, affirm those with “I am” statements. What are your kids struggling with? What is your hope for them? What do you want to encourage them with? Write those out as affirmations, speak them over your children, and if they are old enough, repeat them. Do this for you too, because the struggle as a momma is real. Mom guilt is real. Comparison is real. I need this just as much.
If you do use oils, some of my favorites to use for this are Valor, Believe, Abundance, and Kai’s favorite is Magnify Your Purpose. Let them choose – it really is a powerful tool.
I want to challenge you to do this for the next 30 days. I hope that you will write your own specific affirmations to your children, but to give you an idea and to help get you started, you can download this printable of the daily affirmations Kai says. If you do this, I want to hear about how it is changing your home! Take a picture of your mirror and use the hashtag #sojaffirmations.
For more resources on the power of words and where I got all this information from, check out:
Dr. Caroline Leaf’s talk on the power of words in the brain and the effects of toxic thoughts here. There are several, this is the most to the point one, but I encourage you not only to check out her other videos and podcast, but books as well.